Humanities program has few students, many opportunities

Humanities program has few students, many opportunities was written for The Orion.

With just 28 students in the major, the Chico State humanities program is known to provide courses that include meditation sessions, meetings with professors over tea and a full dose of culture.

This not-so average major includes an array of arts and ideas, including music, religion, philosophy and art from many time periods. With this sort of variety, students are introduced to a bit of everything regarding world culture.

Tiffany Thom, a sophomore humanities major and vice president of the Humanities Student Association, is currently taking “Greek Myth and Ritual” and “Ancient Greece,” while planning to take Spanish and Buddhism courses next semester, she said.

“What drew me to humanities was the wide variety of classes I could take that really interested me,” Thom said. “I can take classes that may not seem like they have anything to do with each other but still be working toward a degree.”

Thom is unsure what she wants to do with her degree once she earns it but is simply interested in learning for now, she said.

“If I had my way, I would be a professional student, but unfortunately, I was born a few centuries too late to be a scholar,” she said.

As the humanities program coordinator and chair of the religious studies department, Jed Wyrick sees humanities students go on to hold a wide variety of occupations. From jobs teaching in elementary schools to advertising, humanities majors receive a well- rounded education, so they are not confined to a certain area, he said.

Wyrick spends time in his Trinity Hall office overlooking the George Petersen Rose Garden. The orange walls, Asian art and shelves of books with titles such as “West Greek Lyric Poetry” and “Arguing the Modern Jewish Canon” are a sure indication of the nature of the humanities program.

“This is what students don’t realize when they come to Chico State,” Wyrick said. “They think they’re going to get a job in their major? Sorry, that’s not the way it goes, and I’m actually not sorry, because if you were only stuck getting a job in your major you’d be really confined.”

Wyrick finds his time spent meeting with each of the 28 students for mandatory advising to be most rewarding, he said. One of his goals is to get the group to become more united, as they very rarely bond because of the array of courses within the major.

“It’s a small program with basically five faculty members teaching the core program,” he said. “It sort of runs on a shoe-string budget.”

Junior humanities major Jessica Bauer is an intern at the 1078 Gallery downtown and finds art to play a major role in her studies, she said.

“A part of my major is kind of art history and just basically appreciation for other cultures’ arts,” she said. “There are a lot of different forms of art in the gallery, not just paintings.”

Bauer is also taking her third semester of Italian and plans to study abroad in Torino, Italy during the spring 2010 semester. Because the major includes a foreign language requirement, many students choose to study abroad, mainly in Europe,Wyrick said. “Language is hugely important in

the world, and unfortunately, Chico State students often don’t really participate that,” he said. “They sort of are stuck in their high school Spanish.”

While humanities students are able to learn the more common languages such as Spanish and French, the program also offers classes in more abstract languages like Arabic and ancient Greek. If students choose to study one of the more common languages, they must take four semesters, ensuring that they will get to an advanced level. The others require only two semesters.

“It’s a different experience to learn Arabic or Chinese than it is to learn Spanish,” Wyrick said.

With popular areas of focus being the cultures of Asia and the Italian Renaissance, students are able to get a taste of different parts of the world in and out of the classroom. The Humanities Student Association meets every other week to discuss and plan fundraising in order to take trips to see performances, movies, exhibits and food from various cultures firsthand.

Wyrick has his own advice for students interested in adding to the group of those majoring in humanities or those wanting to join the Humanities Student Association to see what it is all about.

“Don’t be scared of a language,” he said. “Be fascinated with culture and art. Be able to choose your own adventure.”

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